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Premiership Rugby

Rugby – Making An Impact

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

On Monday 22nd September, at an event at Twickenham Stadium attended by 250 rugby officials, media, key opinion formers and government representatives, Zurich and the RFU unveiled the findings of the most comprehensive study into participation trends in rugby union in England.

The research, carried out by market and social research experts MORI, captured the opinions and experiences of a wide-ranging audience.  254 ex-players, 193 people involved in the game at all levels and 1,708 members of the public were interviewed between January and April 2003.

The findings are crucial to the future of the game – highlighting current issues and areas most in need of support.  They will help guide the RFU’s strategy for this Rugby World Cup season and beyond – and are in unison with the Government’s “Game Plan” Strategy for sport, published in 2002.

Sports Minister (Richard Caborn, MP) endorsed the research and confirmed his support for the RFU’s Action Plan at Monday’s event.

Richard Caborn said: “Research like this is invaluable for planning a long-term strategy for any sport and I applaud the Rugby Football Union and Zurich for their forward-thinking.

“The RFU’s aim to increase participation is in line with the Government’s sport and physical activity objectives. In particular, the emphasis on establishing vital club-school links mirrors our own PE and Schools Sport and Club Links initiative.

“We are already working closely with the RFU on a number of projects through Sport England and we very much look forward to future partnerships.

“England are currently the N.o 1 rugby team in the world and we wish Clive Woodward and his team all the best at the Rugby World Cup. As a governing body, the RFU is also showing itself to be a leader in making their sport available to everyone.”

Clive Woodward (England Head Coach) and the world’s most capped forward, Jason Leonard, were also present at the launch, which was hosted by BBC News presenter Darren Jordon.

Clive Woodward said “It’s good to see sponsors like Zurich getting involved in every area of the game. To see some statistical back-up to your gut feeling gives you the authority to make the correct decisions”.

Jason Leonard, who has won 106 caps for England and five for the British Lions, added: “The avenues now for people who want to get involved in rugby are better than ever”.

“The most important thing for us as England players is ‘where is the next Jonny Wilkinson or Martin Johnson coming from?’ It is very important to fuel the interest of these youngsters to play rugby.  Zurich are helping to open the doors for everybody to get involved in rugby.”

Zurich’s Corporate Marketing Director, James Hill, explained why Zurich had funded the research, “Zurich has social responsibility at its heart, and this is very much the focus of our community activity programme within rugby.”

Zurich’s involvement with the project reflects it’s commitment to the game at both commercial and grassroots level.  Rugby union will now be introduced to more secondary schools and the plans for social inclusion are extremely positive.  It has been Zurich’s way of “making a difference” to the future of the game and providing tangible support to England Rugby.

In summary, the research findings of the MORI report revealed the following:

· Zurich Premiership season ticket sales are up 12% on the start of the 2002/3 season.· Half the population has been exposed to rugby in the past 12 months through television or newspapers.· More than one in 10 of the adult population have watched professional or amateur rugby live. · Less than one fifth population is interested in rugby union, down from a quarter in 1996. Only rugby league, boxing and snooker have suffered a greater decline in interest.· Just 4% of the total population (aged 15+) have played rugby, either 15-a-side, or modified versions.· The number of active rugby clubs has fallen over the past two seasons, from 1,537 to 1,480.· Over the past five seasons, the average number of sides fielded by each active club has fallen to an average of 2.7 per club, from 2.9 in the 1997-98 season.· Three in ten ex-amateur players would be interested in non-contact rugby to prolong their careers.· Rugby ranks 15th among school sports and physical activities, behind dance. Only volleyball has seen a greater decline in participation since 1994. · Since 1994, participation in rugby among primary schoolchildren has increased by 3% to 18%. Participation in rugby in secondary schools has declined by 11% to 28%.· There are fewer adult volunteers than in 1991 and those who are volunteering are now doing so for longer – an average of 4 hours a week, compared to less than 3 hours in 1991. · 20% of rugby volunteers spend five or fewer hours volunteering a week, 39% between six and 15 hours, and 40% 16 or more hours.· Women’s rugby is still a minority sport but is stronger than ever, particularly in universities.· 40% of ethnic minorities participate in sport compared with 46% of whites. Few children from ethnic minorities have the opportunity to play rugby, due in part to the fact that areas with the highest concentrations of ethnic minorities are those also poorly served by rugby facilities.· Rugby union is not an obvious sport for those with disabilities to play but modified versions of the game are popular.

In response to these findings, the RFU have developed an “IMPACT” strategy – which was also launched at Monday’s event.  This strategy focuses on four areas: Club development and club/schools links; Competitions; Coaching and officiating; and Community involvement and partnerships.

Terry Burwell, RFU Community Rugby & Operations Director, said “The problem we have always had in planning strategy for the development of the sport is the lack of robust data in participation trends.

“This piece of research will enable us to plan how we can best meet the strategic objectives of the game in partnership with both Government and Local Authority agendas.”

As a result of the research, the RFU’s response includes introducing 200 new secondary schools to rugby, establishing 2600 links between clubs and schools, delivering coaching and refereeing courses to 700 teachers and training 4,000 people to be Foundation level referees.

In summary, the RFU’s “IMPACT” strategy aims to achieve the following by the end of the 2003/4 season:

· 5% increase in the number of players involved in matches each week.· 150 clubs targeted to ensure that they are able to run additional sides.· 5% increase in number of players involved in matches each week through player/fixture pools.· 15% increase in the number of players involved in non-contact rugby i.e touch or tag.· 20% increase in number of youth and adult teams with a qualified coach.· 2,000 people qualified as a mini/midi coach/referee.· 4,000 people qualified as a Foundation referee.· 200 new secondary schools introduced to rugby · 2600 club/school links established.· 227 coaching and refereeing courses delivered for 700 teachers.· Emerging Schools Festival for up to 40,000 young people will have taken place.· 30% of sports colleges delivering rugby union to both boys and girls as a core sport in both curriculum and out of school hours· 8 FE/6th Form college leagues will be operating.· 2,000 people trained in the RFU Child Protection programme. · 100 rugby weeks/festivals, including ‘rugby in the park’ and ‘rugby on the beach’ run in conjunction with Local Authorities.· 28 additional social inclusion projects to 73 currently running in the RFU’s Constituent Bodies.· 15% increase in the number of volunteers.· 20% of clubs will have a club volunteer coordinator

ENDS

For more details, or to receive a full copy of the MORI report or RFU “IMPACT” strategy, please contact Marcus Jansa at Octagon on marcus.jansa@octagon.com

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